How powerful are quantum computers than mainstream computers?

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we all have been using computers in our daily lives. And, computers play a major part in your daily lives. Whether it be a desktop machine, a laptop, or even a mobile phone. It’s very true that computers have gotten shockingly better since the journey started back in 1946. But, Quantum Computers are very different in the very fundamentals of a computer.

quantum computers
ENIAC- one of the earliest electronic general purpose computers.

Back in the days, computers were the size of an entire room which was pretty reasonable at the time. But, they got smaller and smaller as time passed by. They got more advanced and more efficient in their tasks. We all at some point have heard that the iPhone which came out was actually more powerful than the apollo 11 computer that took man to the moon! It might be very hard to believe this fact at first but if you consider the growth of computers and technology in the past few years, it seems quite true and possible.

Lets take a look back and see how a computer actually works to understand how computers are getting better day by day. So, if you break down a computer, you will find that any computer is basically made up of minute transistors.quantum computers

So, what are transistors ?

Transistors can basically be considered as switches. Yes, like the switches that we have at our homes for lights, fans and other electrical appliances. What does a switch do? 

A switch is a device to turn an appliance on or off right ? This is the exact purpose of a transistor. It’s either on or off. Ok, so how does this help computer to make such complicated calculations and run complicated applications?

Every thing you see on a computer, phone, internet, text, videos, images, animations etc are all made up of zeros and ones or true and false. Yes, all the information out there on the web is just made up of two simple digits “0” and “1” !! When it comes to computers, these zeros and ones are called BINARY DIGITS. These zeros and ones are base of complex information we all store in all the hard drives. A ‘bit‘ which is the smallest unit of data. The word bit is made by fusing the words binary and digit. So, a “bit” can store either a zero or a one. Now as you keep on increase the storage size, it becomes a byte, kilobyte(KB), megabyte(MB), Gigabyte(GB), Terabyte(TB), Petabyte(PB)..and the no. goes on and on..

So, the smaller the transistors got day by day, the size of the computer shrunk down as day by day from the size of an entire hall to the size on my pocket and even smaller.An average modern day transistor is around 14 nano meters wide. That’s smaller than a Bacterium or Cancer cell.

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Here’s a comparison in nano meters.

So, these minute transistors and logic gates, potentially make beast computers  which are waaay more accurate and quick than the human brain in performing calculations. So, okay a computer works on transistors which store information in form of zeros and ones and use logic gates and stuff. This is how a mainstream modern day computer works. So, now I ask myself a question, How much more efficient and tiny these computers can get ? Is there even a limit ? 

What is a Quantum Computer ? 

Lets re imagine the fundamental part of how a computer actually works. We know that it stores information in the form of zeros and ones. But, What if it stored both zeros and ones..

So, for the people from the physics background may know a little bit of quantum mechanics. I know that it is very confusing and very hard to understand. So, lets try to understand the basic quantum theory. Hmm, so what does quantum mean? Quantum mechanics is the behavioral study of extremely minute particle that exist in nature. So, now we know that quantum has something to do with tiny particles in nature. The Uncertainty Principle says that, at a given point of time, the position and velocity of an electron can’t be determined.

How do Quantum Computers work ?

So, unlike a traditional computer, quantum computers can store both zeros and ones at the same time. This is called as the “Super Position”  Difficult to imagine this phenomenon? Let’s have an example. It’s a very famous example when it comes to understanding of working of a quantum computer. So, it goes something like this..

Consider a coin. Let’s flip the coin! now we know that we get either tails or heads as a result right? How can you determine if it’s a heads or a tails ? Well, when it lands on your hand and you see whether its heads or tails right? Exactly. Now, think about the state of the coin while its spinning in the air when you flipped it.

quantum computersTry to answer this question While the coin is spinning in the air, is it tails or heads?

This is the exact fundamental explanation in layman terms of how quantum computers work.

So, a normal computer stores information either in the form of 1 or 0 and we call this a bit. But, I said that the quantum computer stores both zero and one simultaneously and this information is stored in the form of a “Quantum bit” or “QBit”.

Difference b/w bit and qbit.

How is this even useful ?

For instance, you give a calculation perform to a quantum computer and a traditional computer. For example, lets say that the computer needs find you prime factors of a number.

NO. = P X Q

Traditional Computer :

It divides the number again and again until it gets to the position where it cannot divide the number further and gives you the prime factor. This is okay of small calculations. But as the size of the number increases the time it takes to divide and divide on and on, time taken of calculation increases. This is a big problem because, certain calculations speculate to take the entire lifetime of the universe(trillion and trillions of years) to be done. Which sounds like a joke doesn’t it? ha ha ha !

Quantum Computers :

On the other hand, quantum computers do all the calculation in one shot! amazing isn’t it?

quantum computers

Practical Application :

All this looks good in theory. But, do quantum computers have their practical applications? Of course, we are in the early stages of building a quantum computer.

Companies and labs like Google and D-wave have been building and testing quantum computers recently. So, after maybe a few decades we would have quantum computers in our pockets like now a days right ? Probably not.. It may not be possible even in the future because a quantum computer requires very cool surroundings to work approximately 15 millikelvin! (-273.135 C | -459.643 F).

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Cooling for quantum computers
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a quantum computer

It’s really very fascination to even imagine this kind of computers.

Surely, this the future of computing.

Thanks for reading through. Feel free to share! Let the people know about the future of computing!

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Sources :

https://www.dwavesys.com/

Images source :

Google Images.

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